Betts becomes Widnes coach

Widnes have appointed former Wigan star Denis Betts as their new head coach, with Paul Cullen taking up the position of Director of Rugby.

Betts, 41, enjoyed a successful career for the Warriors before moving in to their coaching set-up, acting as head coach during the illness of the late Mike Gregory, before he was moved aside to accommodate Ian Millward.

He has since been coaching for Gloucester rugby union, but was pleased to be given the opportunity to return to league, having missed out on the England national job to Steve McNamara.

Betts said: “I know from my conversations with Steve O’Connor and Paul Cullen that the Vikings have very exciting plans for the development of the club. My role is to coach the first team squad and achieve a consistent level of success on the field. It is a challenge that I relish and I look forward to working with Paul and the rest of the rugby operation to give the Vikings’ fans a team they can be proud to support and a team equipped with the skills and ability required to play to the highest levels in the championship and, eventually, in the Super League.”

Cullen replaced Steve McCormack part way through the 2009 season and led Widnes to the Northern Rail Cup in his first season, ticking the on-field box for the forthcoming Super League applications.

He has had a difficult year, with the death of his wife coming near to the season’s end.

He added: “We have a great squad of players for Denis to work with and we believe that he has the ability to improve the skills and performance of our players as we move towards the completion of our Super League application in December this year. On a personal basis I am really looking forward to working with the board and senior management to build our club into one of the most successful in rugby league.

“This is a great club with a great future and I am privileged to be a part of it.”

Widnes are heavy favourites to be promoted to the sport’s elite in 2012, and chairman Steve O’Connor reiterated his desire to return to the top table.

He said: “Denis Betts has considerable experience of coaching at a senior level with both Wigan Warriors and Gloucester RUFC and his decision to join the Vikings is a symbol of our determination to return to Super League and build a team of the highest quality.”

As a player, Betts played in the great Wigan team of the late 80s and early 90s, scooping six Championships, seven Challenge Cups, three Premierships and two World Club Challenge titles as well as the Lance Todd Trophy and Man of Steel.

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